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  • Questions about filing

    Hi there!

    I have again some questions about filing and setting up a filing system. As David Allen criticises, most people try to organize their filing system like a personal organizer ordered by areas of their life (e.g. files for work related stuff in an other place than files that are related to personal topics). I know that David Allen recommends a simple A-Z filing system with plain manila folders.

    I have previously tried to set up simple filing system, which has not really worked for me. Now I am thinking about restructuring my filing system. But as I thought about it some questions arose:

    1st:
    I have different bank accounts; would you file them under "bank name" or "financial - bank name" (e.g. "Bank of America","Chase" vs "Financial - Bank of America", "Financial - Chase")

    2nd:
    If you buy electric appliances, an TV set for example, you get manuals, warranty information and a bill. Would you file them as "TV set" or "Manuals - TV", "Warranty - TV" or would you recommend to have a "Warranty - 2007" because when you purge your files in most cases you could trash the "Warranty 2007" folder in the year 2010.

    3rd:
    If I make to many "topic - subtopic" files, do I order my files in a to complicated way? Do I make the same mistake as many trying to organize instead of file instantly? How deep should I go with my "topic - subtopic - sub subtopic - ..." files?

    4th:
    What are your best tricks for filing? Do you have some insight you want to share? Are there other things where it is better to have a "general topic - year" for knowing when to trash files?

    5th:
    3rd-cut or straight-cut manila folders?

    I would be great to hear some good tips, tricks and insights that I finally have a working filing system for me, which I can handle easily.

    Cheers

    -wbc

  • #2
    I struggled a bit too, and got some help from this forum.

    For your question...

    #1 & #3:
    I finally resolve to practice an "intuitive" naming style. That is, when I wanna file something (or think of retrieving it from the system), I label it as the first name come to my mind. This reference file system is analog, and without "search" function. Making the folder-tree structure works only when it's the first thing comes to your mind when you want to retrieve them.

    #2 & #4:
    It seems that you look ahead and plan for the purging. First of all, we don't need to do purging every week, or not even months. We normally do it yearly. Instead of twist my labeling to make purging easier, I don't mind spending half a day or even considerably longer time every year to do the purging. I may need to review(or just glance over it) every item in my files to decide if it'd be purged or not.
    On the other hand, having labels like "TV-Manual-2007" wouldn't save you much time in purging. It simply means you are evaluating the folder instead of individual items. But the twisted labeling convention makes day-to-day activity (filing/retrieval) more difficult. So, in the long run, you may actually use more time & effort. I'd still go for "intuitive" nomenclature.

    #5 I use 3-cut. with "A-left,B-middle,C-right; D-left,E-middle,F-right" etc. It's personal taste though, not a big deal.

    Comment


    • #3
      Keep labels short and intuitive.

      Keep labels short and intuitive. Try to figure out the label that you will find easily.

      Comment


      • #4
        Conversely, if you have trouble finding something, when you do find it, relabel it where you expected it to be.

        Comment


        • #5
          Write down the first "label".

          Originally posted by Desultory View Post
          Conversely, if you have trouble finding something, when you do find it, relabel it where you expected it to be.
          When you can't find something write down the first "label" that came to your mind and use it to relabel.

          Comment


          • #6
            Go simple!

            I'm wondering why a simple system isn't working for you. It took me a while to trust not having a file list. Now I know it makes sense!

            So I use a straightforward "what comes into my mind first" approach - so if you think "Chase account" file it as Chase. Doing sub topics gets more complex - just trust the A-Z system. worst case is you could have put something in a few places - eg Chase, bank, finance or savings. That's why Chase makes more sense to me. And you dont need to keep a file list. I dont do sub topics - jusrt file each set of papers in a folder. Occassioanlly I'll make a second folder in error and re=join the comntents when I realise. No harm done.

            Proximity of you filing drawers to your office desk is essential - so you file as you go.

            I put all my warranties and instruction books into a box file marked warranties. That way the box is big enopugh. I purge it annually or, if I remember when I get rid of an item. It's in order of whatever manual/warranty I last consulted.

            I also put receipts for purchases into a folder so if I need to take something back, It's easy to get the receipt.

            I only mark things to destry on a certain date such as finacial papers where i know for certain that if I dont refer to them, I noonger need to keep records after a certin date. Something like manuals, you will prob still need some manuals.

            I have an "ideas" file - collecting bits and pieces that may inspire me or be useful, and review it every three or four months. It's often articles or a news cuttings.

            I also have a bouquet file, suggested my my lovely friend Sarah Jones, a sort of paper bouquet of nice comments. It's a collection of thank-you cards, notes from my boss and e-mails that remind me what peole have apprecaited about me, my team and what we have done to help them.

            3rd-cut or straight-cut manila folders? Defintely tabbed folders!

            So have courage, trust and do simple A-Z again!

            Hx

            Comment


            • #7
              Originally posted by Hermione View Post
              I also have a bouquet file, suggested my my lovely friend Sarah Jones, a sort of paper bouquet of nice comments. It's a collection of thank-you cards, notes from my boss and e-mails that remind me what peole have apprecaited about me, my team and what we have done to help them.
              I love the name, but what do you do with them?

              Comment


              • #8
                I have a separate filing section for manuals, too. One folder per product and everything goes in such as manual, warranty, receipt, etc. Sorted alphabetically. I separate these because they get bulky. I may remove it to a separate filing container at some point. Also, if I have to search through to find the product I am looking for, then I have a better chance of finding it if I am not looking through my whole file system. It seems like a very natural category to me.

                In my main general reference system, If I use a multi-level naming system, it is limited to two levels, maximum. For example, I have a category for credit card account information. It includes 3 folders: "Credit Card - Ours" "Credit Card - Hers" and "Credit Card - Mine." I do it this way because I think of them as "credit cards" and not by bank name. I also like to have all 3 folders together. I use another similar scheme for folders starting with "Bank Account - xxx" for checking, savings, etc.

                I have a couple other small categories and everything else is simple alpha.

                If you give a little thought to your file names at the beginning, and particularly on the key word that you will be thinking of when you want to retrieve the file, then it will come together well.

                Comment


                • #9
                  Hallo,

                  first of all thank you for all the replies.

                  I think I will try the approach of the "evolving filing system" that some of you mentioned. I will file documents under the first keyword that comes into my mind which seems reasonable, in a A-Z manner with little use of "topic - subtopic" files. And if I have to sarch the files for some information which I could not retrieve immediately, I will consider to file it under a different keyword.

                  Second, it is right that I should not think about purging files while creating them that's why I will put warranty information to the manuals in a file for the product because if I need to have the warranty information I will probably think about the product first

                  I will start with 5th-cut folders because these are the cheapest I could get, and hopefully the tabs are not too small for my file names.

                  Another question: Which labler tape size do you use? Do you lable everthing in capital letters - what's the best practice?

                  -wbc

                  Comment


                  • #10
                    I use 1/3 cut folders mostly because they are the cheapest and most widely available in my area. They also provide a good amount of space for labeling. I think either cut would be fine. With 1/5 cut you will need to be a little more careful to use short file names.

                    As for the label tape, I use ˝ inch tape, black on white background and I would not use all capitals since that is harder to read and takes more room. Eventually I decided that it was too much fuss to make labels for each file and now I just hand write on the tabs. This lowers my resistance to creating new folders and speeds my filing.

                    Comment


                    • #11
                      Labels - Two names

                      I don't think I saw this idea mentioned in this string.

                      Sometimes I have a couple of equally reliable names for a folder and I know in advance I may later search on either name. In these cases, I choose one name for the active folder and then label a second folder with the alternate name, followed by "See xxx" to direct me to the active folder. I probably have a couple of dozen folders like this in my system. It's easier than trying to think about the whole process weeks or months from now.

                      I use 5th cut folders for two reasons.
                      1) You can see more labels when scanning them.
                      2) It forces me to condense the labels and put only the most relevant info on them. The label is a quick-reference locator, not a source of information on the project or subject.
                      Last edited by spectecGTD; 08-08-2007, 08:21 PM.

                      Comment


                      • #12
                        Originally posted by spectecGTD View Post
                        I choose one name for the active folder and then label a second folder with the alternate name, followed by "See xxx" to direct me to the active folder.
                        I use that method to direct me from my primary file system to several legal sized files I keep in a stack on a shelf because they won't fit in the file drawers.
                        Last edited by Barry; 08-09-2007, 07:49 AM.

                        Comment


                        • #13
                          Originally posted by spectecGTD View Post
                          I don't think I saw this idea mentioned in this string.
                          I use 5th cut folders for two reasons.
                          1) You can see more labels when scanning them.
                          2) It forces me to condense the labels and put only the most relevant info on them. The label is a quick-reference locator, not a source of information on the project or subject.
                          There is still something I don't get about the GTD method of reference filing. Following is a picture of Jason Womack's reference files: http://jasonwomack.typepad.com/photo...ed_papers.html

                          My question is: how do you chose which of the nth cut to stick a label on in order to keep it alphabetical? For example in a 3rd cut system, if I have "Aardvark" on the left cut, then I create a file for "Abbey" in the middle cut, and then "Academy" on the right cut. Later, I find I need to create a file called "Abacus", which should fit in between "Aardvark" and "Abbey", which cut do I chose to put this label in, and how then do I arrange my folders so I can see all my labels easily?

                          Also, if we readily create a folder even for the most minute of items like a name card, do people recycle the folders when that reference item becomes obsolete? What do you do with the folder and what do you do about relabeling?

                          Any advice much appreciated.

                          Regards

                          Frank

                          Comment


                          • #14
                            I have 'big bulky stuff' -- proposals, workshop materials, and such, that comes in one-inch binders. Doesn't seem like it should go into a filing system. Maybe with books? Is there a method for books? Suppose your binders are wirebound with no spine -- how do you recognize what they are? How do you label them?

                            Suggestions?

                            Thanks

                            Comment


                            • #15
                              My question is: how do you chose which of the nth cut to stick a label on in order to keep it alphabetical? For example in a 3rd cut system, if I have "Aardvark" on the left cut, then I create a file for "Abbey" in the middle cut, and then "Academy" on the right cut. Later, I find I need to create a file called "Abacus", which should fit in between "Aardvark" and "Abbey", which cut do I chose to put this label in, and how then do I arrange my folders so I can see all my labels easily?
                              Third-cut and fifth-cut folders are a pain for the exact reason you describe. That's why I use straight-cut file folders and always label them starting at the extreme left margin. There's infinite room to insert a new file in alphabetical order, and I don't have to scan from left to right to find the file name (which, if it is obscured by the file in front, can be exposed with a light touch of the finger).

                              Comment

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